Religious Liberty

The mixing of government and religion can be a threat to free government, even if no one is forced to participate.... When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion, it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some.
-- Harry Blackmun,
Majority Opinion, Lee v. Weisman, 1992

The right of each and every American to practice his or her own religion, or no religion at all, is among the most fundamental of freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. The Constitution's framers understood very well that religious liberty can flourish only if the government leaves religion alone.

The ACLU is dedicated to protecting the First Amendment that guarantees our religion is free of government and our government is free of religion so that no one religion influences the government decisions that affect us all.

Oregon’s constitution provides even more religious liberty protection than the First Amendment. Article I, section 5 of the Oregon Constitution states in part: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religious (sic), or theological institution.” Article I, section 2 provides “All men shall be secure in the Natural right, to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences” and Article I, section 3 states “No law shall in any case whatever control the free exercise, and enjoyment of religious (sic) opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.”

The ACLU of Oregon is committed to ensuring that the words of the Oregon Constitution mean what they say and will continue to protect religious liberty.


ACLU of Oregon Files Lawsuit Demanding Documents on Implementation of Trump Muslim Ban

protesters at Portland International AirportApril 12, 2017 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) affiliates in Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit today against the regional U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office in demanding government documents about the on-the-ground implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans.

Today’s action is part of a total of 13 FOIA lawsuits filed by ACLU affiliates across the country. The ACLU of Oregon lawsuit is seeking records from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Portland Field Office. In particular, the lawsuit seeks records related to CBP’s implementation of President Trump’s Muslim bans at Portland International Airport, Denver International Airport, Ted Stevens International Airport, Boise International Airport, Casper/Natrona County International Airport and at port of entry offices in Anchorage, Denver, Boise, Portland, Casper.

The ACLU first sought this information through FOIA requests submitted to CBP on February 2, 2017. Since the government has failed to substantively respond, the ACLU is now suing.

“Oregonians have been cut off from their families, friends, and business associates by President Trump’s Muslim bans and the chaotic implementation that followed,” said Mat dos Santos, ACLU of Oregon legal director. “Portland International Airport is our gateway to the world and we deserve to know how the executive orders have been carried out here.”


ACLU of Oregon Demands for Documents on Implementation of Trump’s Immigration Ban

FOIA Filed As Part of Coordinated Campaign with 50 ACLU Affiliates

FOIA filed image February 2, 2017 — The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Oregon (ACLU of Oregon) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request today with its local U.S. Customs and Border Protection office (CBP) to reveal how Trump administration officials are interpreting and executing the president’s immigration ban, and whether they are complying with orders from federal courts partially staying the ban’s implementation. The filing today is part of a coordinated effort from 50 ACLU affiliates, which filed FOIA requests with 18 CBP field offices and its headquarters spanning 55 international airports across the country.

“The exclusion of Muslims and refugees is shameful and runs counter to core American values,” said Kelly Simon, staff attorney at the ACLU of Oregon. “Yesterday, we sued the Trump administration on behalf of immigrants and refugees in Oregon. Today, we teamed up with ACLU affiliates across the country in an effort to force out information about how these orders are being carried out.”



RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Mandate Daily Opportunity for Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (HB 3014) (2013)

Representative Sal Esquivel (R-Medford) introduced HB 3014, which would have required Oregon public schools, including public charter schools, to hang a U.S. flag in every classroom and to provide a daily opportunity for a student or teacher to lead the students in the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Under current law, schools are required to provide this opportunity once weekly.

The ACLU of Oregon has had long standing concerns about this statute, primarily because we  believe it is vulnerable to a challenge under the Oregon constitution’s religious freedom provision, Article I, section 5. The Pledge of Allegiance includes “One Nation under God” and yet our constitution states in part: “No money shall be drawn from the Treasury for the benefit of any religious (sic), or theological institution…”


RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Pledge of Allegiance in Schools (HB 3604) (2011)

Currently, school districts are required to provide their students with the opportunity to recite the Pledge of Allegiance once a week. HB 3604 was introduced to expand the current requirement by allowing for daily recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance.



Smith v. Employment Division

Faces of Liberty: Standing Up for Religious Freedom